San Antonio /ˌsænænˈtoʊni.oʊ/ (Spanish for “Saint Anthony”) is the seventh most populous city in the United States of America and the second most populous city in the state of Texas, with a population of 1.3 million. It was the fastest growing of the top 10 largest cities in the United States from 2000-2010, and the second from 1990-2000. The city is located in the American Southwest, the south–central part of Texas, and the southwestern corner of an urban region known as the Texas Triangle.
San Antonio serves as the seat of Bexar County. The city has characteristics of other western urban centers in which there are sparsely populated areas and a low density rate outside of the city limits. San Antonio is the center of the San Antonio–New Braunfels Metropolitan Statistical Area. Commonly referred to as Greater San Antonio, the metropolitan area has a population of over 2.23 million based on the 2012 U.S. Census estimate, making it the 25th-largest metropolitan area in the United States and third-largest in the state of Texas. Growth along the Interstate 35 and Interstate 10 corridors to the north, west and east make it likely that the metropolitan area will continue to expand.
San Antonio was named for Saint Anthony of Padua, whose feast day is on June 13, when a Spanish expedition stopped in the area in 1691. Famous for Spanish missions, the Alamo, the River Walk, the Tower of the Americas, the Alamo Bowl, Marriage Island and host to SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme parks, the city is visited by approximately 26 million tourists per year according to the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city is home to the four-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and the annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, one of the largest in the country.
San Antonio has a strong military presence—it is home to Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base, Randolph Air Force Base (which constitute Joint Base San Antonio), Lackland AFB/Kelly Field Annex and Brooks City-Base, with Camp Bullis and Camp Stanley outside the city. Kelly Air Force Base operated out of San Antonio until 2001, when the airfield was transferred over to Lackland AFB and the remaining portions of the base became Port San Antonio, an industrial/business park. San Antonio is home to five Fortune 500 companies and the South Texas Medical Center, the only medical research and care provider in the South Texas region.
Payaya Indians originally lived near the San Antonio River Valley, in the San Pedro Springs area, calling the vicinity Yanaguana, meaning “refreshing waters”. In 1691, a group of Spanish explorers and missionaries came upon the river and Native American settlement on June 13, the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, and named the place and river “San Antonio” in his honor.
Early Spanish settlement of San Antonio began with the Martin de Alarcon expedition and the establishment of the San Antonio de Valero Mission (now the Alamo) as a means to reassert Spanish dominance over Texas from the nearby French in Louisiana. The viceroy, at the instigation of Father Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares, made the suppression of illicit trade from Louisiana a primary objective. He also pledged support for the Franciscan missions in Texas.
Father Antonio de Olivares had earlier made a visit to a site on the San Antonio River in 1709, and from that time forward he was determined to found a mission and civilian settlement there. The viceroy gave formal approval for a halfway mission and presidio in late 1716, and assigned responsibility for their establishment to Martin de Alarcón, the governor of Coahuila and Texas. A series of delays, however, occasioned in part by differences between Alarcón and Olivares, postponed definitive action until 1718. Fray Antonio de Olivares built, with the help of the Payaya Indians, the Misión de San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo), the Presidio San Antonio de Bexar, the bridge that connected both, and the Acequia Madre de Valero.
The families clustered around the presidio and mission formed the beginnings of Villa de Béjar, destined to become the most important town in Spanish Texas. On May 1, the governor gave possession to Fray Antonio de Olivares of the Mission San Antonio de Valero (later famous as the Alamo), and on May 5, 1718 established the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar (“Béjar” in modern Spanish orthography) on the west side of the San Antonio River one-fourth league from the San Antonio de Valero Mission.
On February 14, 1719, the Marquis of San Miguel de Aguayo made a report to the king of Spain proposing that 400 families be transported from the Canary Islands, Galicia, or Havana to populate the province of Texas. His plan was approved, and notice was given the Canary Islanders (isleños) to furnish 200 families; the Council of the Indies suggested that 400 families should be sent from the Canaries to Texas by way of Havana and Veracruz. By June 1730, 25 families had reached Cuba and 10 families had been sent on to Veracruz before orders from Spain to stop the movement arrived.
Under the leadership of Juan Leal Goraz, the group marched overland to the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar, where they arrived on March 9, 1731. The party had increased by marriages on the way to 15 families, a total of 56 persons. They joined a military community that had been in existence since 1718. The immigrants formed the nucleus of the villa of San Fernando de Béxar, the first regularly organized civil government in Texas. Several of the old families of San Antonio trace their descent from the Canary Island colonists. María Rosa Padrón was the first baby born of Canary Islander descent in San Antonio.
During the Mexican settlement of South-Western lands lasting for nearly a century, Juan Leal Goraz Jr. was a foremost figure who self-proclaimed nearly 100,000 sq miles (153,766 acres) as Spanish territory stretching across six states and holding control of them for about three decades. Among six states, San Antonio was founded as Leal Goraz’s landmark capital and representation of the newfound Mexican expansion into what is now the southwestern US. A robust military base Facilitated the extension of Mexican roots north as far as San Francisco, California, 90% of the state having been bathed in Mexican influences assimilated From this Western Mexican expansion (1833 – 1851). Widespread bankruptcy forced Leal Goraz Jr.’s army back into Mexico where they resumed internal Conflict and turmoil with neighboring entities.Memorial to the Alamo defenders San Antonio grew to become the largest Spanish settlement in Texas, and for most of its history, the capital of the Spanish, later Mexican, province of Tejas. From San Antonio, the Camino Real, today Nacogdoches Road in San Antonio, ran to the American border at the small frontier town of Nacogdoches. When Antonio López de Santa Anna unilaterally abolished the Mexican Constitution of 1824, violence ensued in many states of Mexico.
In a series of battles, the Texian Army succeeded in forcing Mexican soldiers out of the settlement areas east of San Antonio. Under the leadership of Ben Milam, in the Battle of Bexar, December, 1835, Texian forces captured San Antonio from forces commanded by General Martin Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna’s brother-in-law. In the spring of 1836, Santa Anna marched on San Antonio. A volunteer force under the command of James C. Neill occupied and fortified the deserted mission.
Upon his departure, the joint command of William Barrett Travis and James Bowie were left in charge of defending the old mission. The Battle of the Alamo took place from February 23 to March 6, 1836. The outnumbered Texian force was ultimately defeated, with all of the Alamo defenders killed. These men were seen as “martyrs” for the cause of Texas freedom and “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry in the Texian Army’s eventual success at defeating Santa Anna’s army.
Juan Seguín, who organized the company of Tejano patriots, who fougt for Texas independence, fought at the Battle of Concepcion, Siege of Bexar, and the Battle of San Jacinto, and served as mayor of San Antonio. He was forced out of that office, due to threats on his life, by sectarian newcomers and political opponents in 1842, becoming the last Tejano mayor for nearly 150 years. An aerial view of San Antonio in 1939.
In 1845, the United States finally decided to annex Texas and include it as a state in the Union. This led to the Mexican-American War. Though the U.S. ultimately won, the war was devastating to San Antonio. By its end, the population of the city had been reduced by almost two-thirds, to 800 inhabitants. Bolstered by migrants and immigrants, by 1860 at the start of the Civil War, San Antonio had grown to a city of 15,000 people.